While we don’t want to overreact to one week of an NFL season, Week 1 of the 2023 campaign exposed some real concerns for some of the league’s contenders. Some clubs are dealing with injury issues, while others simply performed poorly in their season-opening contest.
Which teams should be worried heading into Week 2, and which squads merely had a poor start to the season?
Which NFL Contenders Should Be Concerned Ahead of Week 2?
New York Jets
The Jets’ hopes of contending in 2023 may have gone out the window when Aaron Rodgers suffered a season-ending Achilles tear. New York’s elite defense — and a fortuitous overtime punt return touchdown — helped them defeat the Bills on Monday night, but it’s hard to imagine Gang Green staying in the thick of the AFC race with Zach Wilson under center.
While New York has begun reaching out to veteran quarterbacks, it sounds like they’re searching for potential backup options. Head coach Robert Saleh has been adamant that the Jets will stick with Wilson as their starter moving forward.
#Jets HC Robert Saleh makes it clear that Zach Wilson is QB 1️⃣ in the wake of Aaron Rodgers' season-ending injury:
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) September 12, 2023
Wilson’s poor performance over his first two NFL campaigns was what spurred the Jets to target and acquire Rodgers in the first place. The former No. 2 overall pick was abysmal in 2022 — Wilson would have ranked 28th in QBR if he’d had enough attempts to qualify, and he seemed to lose New York’s locker room after failing to take accountability following a brutal Week 11 loss to the Patriots.
What’s on tap in Week 2: The Jets will travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys, whose defense thoroughly dominated Daniel Jones and the Giants en route to a 40-0 victory on Sunday night. Facing Micah Parsons and Co. on a short week isn’t exactly a recipe for a rebound.
New York’s schedule won’t get any easier after their date in Dallas. Gang Green has games against the Patriots, Chiefs, Broncos, Eagles, Giants, and Chargers from Weeks 2 through 9.
If the Jets are on notice even after pulling out a win over Buffalo in Week 1, then the Bills must already be at code red after losing to a Rodgers-less New York squad.
Of course, Buffalo is still one of the AFC’s true contenders, even after going down on Monday night. But it’s fair to have at least some concern about Josh Allen, a perennial MVP candidate who can’t seem to stay out of his own way.
Allen, who led the league with 19 turnovers in 2022, tossed three interceptions against the Jets, all of which went to safety Jordan Whitehead. He also fumbled twice, losing one, which essentially gave New York a free field goal.
Allen still finished 15th in EPA per play in Week 1 — even when he makes mistakes, he has enough talent to overcome them. But he’ll have to rein in his worst impulses if the Bills have any hope of living up to expectations this season.
What’s on tap in Week 2: The Bills will host the Raiders, who earned a Week 1 win over the Broncos but whose defense doesn’t boast anywhere near the talent that the Jets’ does.
Kansas City Chiefs
Losing in Week 1 is never optimal, but let’s remember the Chiefs didn’t have Travis Kelce or Chris Jones against the Lions in the NFL’s season opener.
The Jones situation was already rectified after the All-Pro defensive tackle ended his holdout and reported to Kansas City’s facility following a revised one-year agreement allowing him to earn incentive-based pay in 2023.
Kelce missed Week 1 with a hyperextended knee but returned to practice on Wednesday and is expected to be active on Sunday. With Kelce available, Patrick Mahomes won’t have to fully rely on a disappointing cast of wideouts, including Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore, who struggled mightily against Detroit.
What’s on tap in Week 2: The Chiefs will travel to play the Jaguars, whom they matched up with twice last season, including in the Divisional Round of the AFC playoffs. Jacksonville kept each game close and only improved their roster over the offseason.
There are so many possible excuses to deploy for the Bengals’ destruction at the hands of the Browns in Week 1. Joe Burrow didn’t get summer reps due to a calf strain, the weather was abysmal, Cincinnati wasn’t prepared for Jim Schwartz’s defensive scheme … the list goes on and on.
Burrow and the Bengals also started slowly in 2022, falling to 0-2 before rebounding to post 12 wins and making a second consecutive trip to the AFC title game. No one in Cincinnati seems to be panicking just yet, including defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, whose unit gave up 206 rushing yards to Cleveland in Week 1.
What’s on tap in Week 2: After playing on the road on Sunday, the Bengals get a home game against the beat-up Ravens in Week 2. Baltimore lost J.K. Dobbins for the season on Sunday, while Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Williams, Ronnie Stanley, and Tyler Linderbaum all failed to practice on Wednesday.
New York Giants
What else can you say about a season-opening 40-0 thrashing at the hands of a division rival? Here’s how the Giants’ offensive drives went against the Cowboys on Sunday night:
- Blocked field goal (returned for a TD by Dallas)
- Missed field goal
- End of half
- Turnover on downs
- Turnover on downs
- End of game
Just go ahead and give Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn his pick of 2024 head coaching jobs.
Meanwhile, while the Giants have a lot to correct after Week 1, their primary problem was pass protection. New York’s front five allowed Jones to take seven sacks and get hit 12 times. Star left tackle Andrew Thomas — potentially the only above-average lineman on Big Blue’s roster — is questionable for Week 2 as he deals with a hamstring stain.
What’s on tap in Week 2: A get-right game against the Cardinals. Arizona’s defensive front gave the Commanders issues in Week 1 and could present a problem for the Giants in Week 2, but New York has far more talent than the Cardinals and should be able to find their first win of the season.
Not one member of PFN’s NFL department picked the Rams over the Seahawks in Week 1, but Los Angeles pulled out a dominant 17-point win against Seattle to begin the year.
Geno Smith managed just 112 yards through the air, while the Seahawks ran for only 85 yards. Both of Seattle’s starting tackles — Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas — left Sunday’s game, and Lucas has already been placed on injured reserve.
But the Seahawks’ defense was arguably more concerning. A unit that added Dre’Mont Jones, Bobby Wagner, and Julian Love over the offseason shouldn’t have given up 30 points to a Rams offense that didn’t even have Cooper Kupp.
What’s on tap in Week 2: If Seattle couldn’t stop Los Angeles, we’re concerned about how its defense will look against the Lions. Detroit has just as productive of a scheme as the Rams, but they also have a much better offensive line.